Blog: Shattered Sky

Lovins: No Regrets Action!

Interviewed Hunter Lovins today for our climate change documentary Shattered Sky. Who is not jazzed and encouraged after talking with Lovins?! She advocates action toward clean energy and reducing CO2 emissions, not because it is the right thing to do per se, but because there’s a compelling business case. She cited case after case where companies saved wads of cash by instituting various energy-efficiency practices. Energy efficiency could “reduce energy demand and carbon emissions by 50 %” she said. Inspirational.

Becker: From Climate Weirding to Executive Solutions

So, with co-producer Dan Evans, I interviewed Bill Becker today for our documentary Shattered Sky. So, should we be calling this crisis “climate change” or “global warming” I asked Becker. I don’t much care what we call it anymore, let’s just do something about it, he responded, before deciding on “climate weirding.” This, because there won’t be uniform warming, but unpredictable extremes – droughts, extra rain, possible feedback, etc. On his blog at Yale, John Waldman says Hunter Lovins coined the term; but when I interviewed Lovins, she said she got the term from “a friend.” So who invented it? Or more importantly, is it useful?

Becker is low-key, avuncular, and comprehensive in approach. During the last few years, he talked with hundreds of policy people, scientists, and other experts on what to do on three interrelated challenges: climate, energy, and national security. The conclusions of his Presidential Climate Action Project are in large part being integrated into early-stage Obama Administration initiatives, a credit to Becker and the work of his collaborators.

Carbon Age Over Tandoori Chicken

So, I’m eating lunch at my favorite local Indian place with my friend Eric Roston today. Roston’s the author of The Carbon Age, a brilliant, definitive book about carbon as a structural element in life and civilization. So, over some tasty Tandoori Chicken, the conversation fortunately veers away from molecular composition and astrophysics to something I can at least talk about: ethics. Roston makes the point that the climate issue is the perfect moral quandary: any actions you and I take to try to arrest the build-up of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere will have little to no impact during our lives. We simply won’t see it, since CO2 emissions have atmospheric lifetimes of 100-150 years, and sometimes a lot more.

Are our political and economic systems equipped to handle long-term, complex, moral issues? So far, no.

Check out this nice blog post, with a video of Roston on the Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Roston holds his own pretty well. Funny!

Google 2030: How’d a Tech Company One-Up the Gov’t?

Google’s Energy team put out a strategy in October called “Google 2030,” which makes a strong case for smart investments in clean energy. Like most everything Google does, it is smart, thorough, and transparent — they’ve improved it quite a bit with public comments in the past six months (why can’t the federal government work this way?). It targets some aggressive but realistic goals, which not only help address climate change, but reduce pollution and get us well on our way to using renewable energy at scale. Some highlights: it aims to reduce fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 88%; reduce vehicle oil consumption by 44%; reduce dependence on imported oil (currently 10 million barrels per day) by 37%; reduce electricity-sector CO2 emissions by 95%; reduce personal vehicle sector CO2 emissions by 44%; reduce US CO2 emissions overall by 49% (41% from today’s CO2 emission level).

Does everyone have an agenda? Sure. Google’s is to have cheaper, sustainable energy in the long run so their massive server farms don’t become a PR nightmare in CA during the next generation. Oh, and it might help their bottom line. And Google knows that utilities are essentially monopolies, so we need government intervention in making the move toward cleaner alternatives. Is the US federal government up to the task?

What’s one way forward? Read Google’s HOW TO.

Bob Watson and the IPCC

Interviewed Bob Watson today for Shattered Sky. In my opinion, if you have to pick one person in the world today who contributed most to science informing international policy, it’s Watson. Start with the nascent international science assessments around the ozone crisis in the mid-1980s. Those were organized by Watson and Dan Albritton, from NOAA. Until then, country-level science assessments competed with each other, and often contradicted each other, undermining the authority of science and essentially making it less of an input into policy. Watson wrangled together the best scientists in the world, who coalesced into a convincing, unified voice preceding the 1988 Montreal Protocol, the landmark international treaty that phased out the chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer.

Soon thereafter, in 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its first assessment on global warming. So, 20 years later, we’re up to the 4th IPCC report, which included more than 2,500 scientific expert reviewers, more than 800 contributing authors, and more than 450 lead authors — from more than 130 countries.

So, for the first time in history, we have a truly global consensus in scientific opinion. Some complain that because there are so many participants and it takes so many years to reach consensus, that the IPCC may actually be too conservative. But, I say, better to err on this side than overstate climate change.

California Production for Shattered Sky

In Orange County, CA for some more interviews for Shattered Sky. Talking with journalist Sharon Roan, who wrote Ozone Crisis. Then interviewing Dr. Sherwood Rowland who won a Nobel Prize for his contributions to chemistry. His 1974 Rowland-Molina hypothesis identified CFCs as damaging the ozone layer, which led to the Montreal Protocol limiting the gas worldwide.

Always a Statesman

At Stanford. Interviewed George Shultz today for the independent documentary I’m producing, SHATTERED SKY. I was really hoping to link some of the lessons of the fight to save the ozone to today’s climate challenge, and Shultz didn’t disappoint. We focused on his days as Secretary of State under Reagan, and what a key role statecraft played in forging a US consensus to do something about the emerging ozone hole.